Productivity – it’s a mind game

It’s budget day in the UK, and there’s a lot of chatter about productivity – or more accurately, the relative lack of it in the UK. I suspect that, as with many large organisations, including governments, they’re looking in the wrong place.

In the industrial economy mindset, productivity is measured mechanically – outputs – mainly framed in money as a function of inputs – again, mainly measured in money – capital, labour costs etc.The pursuit of it has also taken a mechanical, process path. Quality, Process, Lean, Six Sigma. All very valuable, but finite tools.

In a connection economy, the prime driver of productivity is bandwidth – measured as the efficiency and lack of friction in the creation of value. If creativity is the process of turning ideas into value, then the determinants are allowing and enabling people to think creatively, and connect those ideas to places – people, businesses, universities – wherever – where they can thrive.

Most businesses are structured to strangle creativity at birth. Goals (particularly SMART ones) create the focus and pressure that stops creativity in its tracks.

We do not have ideas for money – we have ideas. Everything we know about idea generation, from Dan Pink’s work DRIVE, and the more detailed PUNISHED BY REWARDS (Alfie Kohn) tells us that applying extrinsic rewards to intrinsic motivation kills it.

Great sports coaches don’t teach players to kick a ball, or play a shot – they are working with people who know how to do that. Great coaches work with people to understand their game.

In business, most of our Learning, Development and coaching is focused on behaviour – how to kick the ball, and that’s an industrial era approach.

The answer to the productivity paradox is right in front of us. Helping those we work with to understand their game. It’s about inputs. We know how to process the hell out of inputs, we ‘re just very poor at enabling them.

If we want to increase productivity, we need to do more work, and more getting out of the way, on enabling their generation.

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